In most of the recent MMOs that I have played or come across, the saying that “the game begins at <level cap>” holds true. The level cap is something easily reachable, and in the case of Sentinel’s Fate, can be obtained within the first couple of days. Hitting the level cap is essential and vital to the game experience, because, unless you are sitting at max level, much of the newer content isn’t accessible. Leveling becomes an affair that you want to get over and done with. Essentially, the concept of levels becomes anti-game – something that gets in the way of being able to truly experience the game. Since everyone eventually hits max level, the level of a character becomes just another insignificant statistic that takes the backseat until the cap gets raised in subsequent expansions, which maybe as far as a year away.
Contrast it to some of the previous games that I’ve played. Leveling in Lineage 2 is a constant, on-going affair. Your level is noteworthy, and if you’re sitting on the level cap, it is a bragging right. Most people don’t hit the level cap, yet they are able to participate in the game just as much, going through more or less the same content that the players who are closer to level cap does. In L2 raids and PvPs, you have players spread over a span of levels. Having a character that is higher level than the mean brings bonuses to the table, but if levels aren’t on your side, you can compensate for it in other ways. In EQ2, you won’t even considering bringing someone 5 levels below cap to a raid. Having the level cap be illusive also acts as a safe-guard against boredom. Even if game content has been exhausted, you can always fall back on leveling.
Having levels and leveling disassociated from the game is a trap that most modern MMOs fall into. After awhile, there’s nothing to but create alts after alts. Soon enough, you have ten character all sitting at level cap, and you wonder what there is to do.